T Nation

Returning to the Gym After Long Term Injury


Hi everyone, I wanted to introduce myself, as it's been years since I posted on T-Nation. In 2007, I suffered a weight training related back injury, which for the better part of the next three years, kept me out of the gym and in therapy (PT, massage, chiro). Prior to that, I had been a serious lifter for years but stupidly I barely did any conditioning (stretching, warm ups, cool downs). Consequently, I developed very tight hip flexors, very weak glutes and a painful herniated disc at L5-L5. At age 47, my body could no longer handle the stress I was putting it through.

It's only within the last few months that I've been able to return to the gym, but using a tiny fraction of the poundage I used to use. The idea of squatting or DL's seems like light years away. If the last four years have taught me anything, it's that good technique should never be sacrificed for belting out one more rep. I used to do the dumbest things in the gym to hit my "personal best" without thinking of the damage I was doing to my vertebral discs.

Today at age 51, I notice the effects of almost four years of inactivity. Interestingly, what I also notice is the impact of "muscle memory" on my body. Despite having to drastically reduce the amount of weight I use, I notice that some body parts are responding well to training, despite the light poundage I use today.

Other body parts, however, are a shadow of what they used to look like before my injury, and I don't know how to address this. I know that as we age, we lose about 1% of muscle mass a year...and certainly if one is sedentary, as in my case, it makes it doubly hard to regain that lost muscle mass.

So, I'm hoping to gain both support and advice. I'm wondering if there are other men perhaps around my age who may have had a similar story to mine, and have bounced back nicely, and can offer some encouraging words. As well, I'm wondering how I can bring up those body parts that have not responded to my training since I resumed; primarily my chest, abs and calves.

I used to have a pretty well developed chest before my injury, solid calves and for my age, a decent midsection. TOday, despite regular training of these muscle parts, my chest is still hollow, abs have lost definition and my calves no longer feel hard. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Apologies for the long post, but I'm glad to be back on the forum, which used to play a big part of my training. Thanks for reading and for your help. GOod luck to all.


Welcome, Lorne. I just joined a few months ago, so I don't remember your previous posts. Anyway, I'm 54 and fighting it out in the gym most of my life. Can't help with recovering strength, since I've never been strong, struggling to get up to decent levels, but I do understand how to keep going at this age.

You mentioned damage in lumbar disks. I have scoliosis there, they put me on rehab years ago to strengthen up the area. Did doc have you do anything similiar?

I'm guessing memories of good lifts will tempt you to take on too much, glad you're holding back. Remember, tendons & ligaments have to strengthen along with the muscles.

It's possible to gain at this age, but absolutely everything has to be in place, you can't take anything for granted. Training has to be relentless and focused, eat loads of healthy stuff all day long, get tons of sleep. In my case, that's what it takes to get any results at all.

Good luck!


I think you'll find a lot of us here have dealt with or are dealing with injuries and have had to fight the good fight in coming back. It's tough to take a long hiatus from training. Hopefully you'll find a lot of support and motivation here to help you on your journey.

Your statement that good technique should never be sacrificed for belting out one more rep is particularly poignant to me.


Hi- welcome.

Lots of closet rehabbers here, and proud rehabbers too.

take it one day at a time- see what kind of training your body can respond too.


In years past before the injury, what was your program and what weights did you handle? What happened that made disks go flying across the room?